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Soil Planning for a new garden
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  1. #1

    Planning for a new garden

    This is my first full year at my new digs. I'm here by myself - with some occasional help from friends & family - whom I hope to benefit from what I'm planning here. I've got 10 acres to play with.

    I'm taking care of the big structural improvements/remodelling/maintenance issues this year... with an eye to laying out the map of the food production and breaking sod this fall. Probably LATE this fall. I knew I dare not spread myself too thin, by trying to plant yet. And I wanted the experience of a full 4 seasons before making any big plant or garden decisions.

    There may be one or two terraces involved in the field I've designated for growing. I'll make that decision, after the barn is up. I like having my equipment and tools where I'm going to use them the most. Field is about 1/2 an acre. There are other locations for fruit trees, if I think I need to spread things out. I'm NOT going to target any commercial growing, but am aiming for a surplus to trade. That said, there will be either a greenhouse or hoop house in the plan. Power and water are available there.

    At the moment, I'm not generating a lot of compost material. But that will be part of the overall plan, as my topsoil is generally thin and likely not all that "rich". Subsoil is going to be shale and decayed sandstone. Lots of bedrock outcroppings around here, where the mountains have worn down over millenia. Everything starts with the soil, so that's my first focus. I am still deciding about animals; I could use the source of manure. I'm just not sure about my level of commitment to learning to care for them properly. Never kept livestock; not even chickens.

    It's not my first garden, so I'm trying to apply what I've learned over the years and start off right... and plan to be able to maintain it and keep the full circle going, as I'm not getting any younger. I'm in decent enough shape and have the right tools that should make the work easy enough for some times.

    So, this is kind of a journal of progress. Maybe it'll help some newbies get acquainted with the decisions involved. And I'm always open to suggestions, shared experience, ideas and discussion. Progress around here moves like a herd of turtles, I'll just warn ya right now.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    W. Georgia
    Posts
    5,931
    You sound like you are making some wise decisions.

    My opinion, for what it's worth, is to not overwhelm yourself the first year with a big garden. You could start now and you do have this fall and winter to put down a lot of leaves and mulch and start building the soil for your spring garden.

    North Ga mountains are a beautiful place to be. I bet your place is going to be a showplace when you get done.

  3. #3
    I'll settle for it being functionally self-supporting, rabbit! I'm in N. WV mountains. A new place to live for me - at "home". I've lived in the area since 1980, minus some years at the beach - just to say I did live at the beach.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    W. Georgia
    Posts
    5,931
    I don't know why I thought you lived in the Ga. mountains. I bet it's beautiful up there too. It just sounds like a wonderful life you are building.

  5. #5
    Thanks Rabbit! I like making things and especially like growing things. When hubby died, and knowing I'm done with career stuff (altho in a pinch I could teach again) I needed to have a purpose to my life. I can't - alone - make a homestead from scratch like we did in the 90s.

    So, finding this place that was already half-way to what I ultimately want: a place that is designed to function sans electricity was a bonus. It's not a LOT of land, but no one is going to be able to build near me, as 3 sides is all owned by one person who has the woods in a conservation mode. I do have a deal with some locals who hunt that land - they help me out with some things around here and I give them a more comfy place to hang out here during the big week or two of the "season". Sometimes I get a nice roast, too. And they're teaching me the lay of the land around me.

    I'm repurposing over 100 concrete blocks that were used for raised beds - after a fashion - and building planting boxes for a kitchen & herb garden on the outside of my raised parking spot. The kids moved them all to the new location, so I can start on those - work in little stages - designing as go. Probably be 2-3 courses high (they'll all be different, working between some HUGE rocks too), lined with weed fabric, then I'll order a truckload of topsoil for them. That area is too rocky to do much with, so I'm going eventually have paths to walk between the beds and tend them. And certain shrubs will go there too, and flowers interspersed. The boxes help retain the gravel and dirt of the parking area too, and I should be able to cover with pvc frames and clear plastic for cold frames and starting some things outside, to transplant to the main area later.

    I'm also finding a lot of useful "weeds" around here that are natural to the area, and will nurture them too.

    Yesterday, I saw my first flock of wild turkey babies walking up the hill. Maybe a dozen young ones. Still haven't seen any bears yet - though we did find some old scat out in the woods.

  6. #6
    Prep work for the concrete pad for the garden barn is done; pour is Monday - and the building is ordered. It will be September before it gets here to be put up. (Metal barn)

    In the process, I noticed that most of the scraped up dirt looks like nice and rich. Much more of it, to a good depth, than I really expected. It's been a BUSY, but good week around here. I have a few more "have-tos" on this year's list... then I can hibernate for the winter.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2001
    Location
    "outside the box"
    Posts
    27,365
    North WVa is about the prettiest place on earth- (Almost Heaven!)

    One of the best things that I did for my soil was to build a garden around the fenced-in chicken run. When it isnt garden season I drop a gate and let the birds rototill and fertilize the dirt


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBs9TuES5sc

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    Location
    WI
    Posts
    2,243
    How very smart of you!!

    First and foremost, get a general idea of what you are dealing with. Look online for the specifications etc for an Extension office soil test from your anticipated plot. Find out your pH, organic content, minerals, etc. Then you know a little bit about what you are dealing with and get a better idea of how to proceed.

    Look at what you have around you, and maybe what your neighbor's might have. Do you have access to manure? lawn clippings? old straw? leaves? etc? A "sheet composting" or "lasagna? garden can be started now. And if you have wood chips (or a chipper and trees) available, then you can easily modify it to a Back to Eden style. If you have thin or poor soil underneath, you will want to build that up with more than just wood chips.

    Maybe you want chickens or rabbits? Come up with a fencing/rotation system to use them to your benefit.

    Can you haul in compost? etc.

    Best luck! Starting out is so much work, yet so rewarding!!
    “Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
    "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." - J.K. Rowling "Remember who the real enemy is." - Suzanne Collins "Winter is coming." - George R.R. Martin

  9. #9
    I haven't committed to having any animals yet. (I have two decent coops on the property - but they're located too far from the house and too close to predator territory).

    I have a chipper; I have trees. And I can get truckloads of both compost and garden soil, fairly locally. I'll be making my share of compost - once I figure out the locations for the bins.

    This first year, is simply addressing house issues and building new storage buildings - putting things where they're going to get used. I knew the house was going to need work - it wasn't a primary residence until now - and moving in at the start of the winter, I figured out pretty quick most of the windows/doors needed to be replaced; garage insulated; wood burning stuff inspected and upgraded... LOL. With any luck, most of this will get done in time, that I can at least start working on the garden layout and get it plowed up. I'll have all winter to sweeten and loosen the soil - but from what I've seen so far it isn't going to need much "help".

    We had an all-day deluge yesterday so the concrete won't pour until end of the week. My windows & doors came in, though - and contractor said he's rounding up enough workers to load/unload and get started probably first of next week. Fireplace insert/woodstove will probably be a couple more weeks out yet.

  10. #10
    Popping this back up again. The deep freeze has let up - at least for the first couple inches of soil, so it's a little slippery-slidey out by the garden area. If you didn't guess - I got rather busy after that last post above. To put it mildly. And it's only let up a little bit after last week. I still have PLENTY to do/plan/accomplish around here.

    In the midst of my chaos, the "farm" went from 10 acres to almost 150. The bulk of that is simply hunting ground & trees. Oh and lots of rocks... nature's building materials. I still haven't built my "kitchen garden" beds, that are close to the house. That's on tap for this spring. Saving woodstove ash... and have a better idea where the compost bins are going. I have a garden plan now...

    the hill slopes away from the barn and is ideal for creating beds on terraces. Ideally, I'd like enough space between the beds to pull my field mower through and around the ends, until I decide what kind of permaculture plants will go between the open beds. I'm also thinking a smaller hoop house. That slope is kind of triangular, so I may divide the longer beds with a path closer to the barn, where the field is wider. Plant a small orchard near the triangle and locate compost there, as well. It's a pain to mow with the big mower, which has a pretty wide turning radius.

    Of course, it all needs to be fenced. I am debating with myself over that because a fence is just a pain to keep tidy and work around the garden... and deer are going to go right over anything that's not a minimum of 6 ft tall. I have a few deer - fewer after last hunting season. But I have more of the smaller, destructive to gardens animals too. So... ruminating on that for now. Part of my dilemma is wanting to do something artsy with the fence and make it part of the attraction of hanging out in the garden area. Crap like stone walls, with fence built on top of that... SO attractive, but so totally not practical. Sometimes I just want to smack the crap out of my imagination.

    There are going to be more infrastructure projects next season, and it's time for me to get out among people a little more now too. So I think I'm only going to dip a toe into planting. Just the basics - onions, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli and potatoes. Some of that will get started in the kitchen beds - which will need to be filled with compost/topsoil that will have to be "imported" - by the truckload. Out in the garden area, I'll follow up on Cyclonemom's suggestion and get the soil tested... and mostly spend this first year really improving the soil. Just for experimental purposes, I'll see how the basics do out there this year. I need to get power & water to the barn, in short order if I'm hoping to get plants in anywhere CLOSE to the normal date. Memorial Day is our last frost date, typically... but I usually get going planting out around Mother's Day.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Central Iowa
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    37,723
    Quote Originally Posted by Sacajawea View Post
    Popping this back up again. The deep freeze has let up - at least for the first couple inches of soil, so it's a little slippery-slidey out by the garden area. If you didn't guess - I got rather busy after that last post above. To put it mildly. And it's only let up a little bit after last week. I still have PLENTY to do/plan/accomplish around here.

    In the midst of my chaos, the "farm" went from 10 acres to almost 150. The bulk of that is simply hunting ground & trees. Oh and lots of rocks... nature's building materials. I still haven't built my "kitchen garden" beds, that are close to the house. That's on tap for this spring. Saving woodstove ash... and have a better idea where the compost bins are going. I have a garden plan now...

    the hill slopes away from the barn and is ideal for creating beds on terraces. Ideally, I'd like enough space between the beds to pull my field mower through and around the ends, until I decide what kind of permaculture plants will go between the open beds. I'm also thinking a smaller hoop house. That slope is kind of triangular, so I may divide the longer beds with a path closer to the barn, where the field is wider. Plant a small orchard near the triangle and locate compost there, as well. It's a pain to mow with the big mower, which has a pretty wide turning radius.

    Of course, it all needs to be fenced. I am debating with myself over that because a fence is just a pain to keep tidy and work around the garden... and deer are going to go right over anything that's not a minimum of 6 ft tall. I have a few deer - fewer after last hunting season. But I have more of the smaller, destructive to gardens animals too. So... ruminating on that for now. Part of my dilemma is wanting to do something artsy with the fence and make it part of the attraction of hanging out in the garden area. Crap like stone walls, with fence built on top of that... SO attractive, but so totally not practical. Sometimes I just want to smack the crap out of my imagination.

    There are going to be more infrastructure projects next season, and it's time for me to get out among people a little more now too. So I think I'm only going to dip a toe into planting. Just the basics - onions, garlic, tomatoes, broccoli and potatoes. Some of that will get started in the kitchen beds - which will need to be filled with compost/topsoil that will have to be "imported" - by the truckload. Out in the garden area, I'll follow up on Cyclonemom's suggestion and get the soil tested... and mostly spend this first year really improving the soil. Just for experimental purposes, I'll see how the basics do out there this year. I need to get power & water to the barn, in short order if I'm hoping to get plants in anywhere CLOSE to the normal date. Memorial Day is our last frost date, typically... but I usually get going planting out around Mother's Day.
    Share photos, in progress photos, when you get started!
    People are quick to confuse and despise confidence as arrogance but that is common amongst those who have never accomplished anything in their lives and who have always played it safe not willing to risk failure.

  12. #12
    when you are deciding on new garden space around those old farmplaces - look out for any areas that might have been tool sheds or had equipment stored on it for decades .... ag chemicals have been around forever and they were nasty as hell - and they don't breakdown that eazy over the years ....
    Illini Warrior

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Location
    Swimming in sea quarks
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    3,767
    Although I have enough curiosity for ten people and would like to see photos as well, I'd advise against posting any photos online. They tend to give away too much information of what is, or could become opsec concerns.
    Facts?? We don't need no stinkin facts...

  14. #14
    Unless a fence is absolutely needed (my son free ranges goats and market lambs on his 30 acre farm, plus chickens, turkeys and geese, so HAD TO fence his garden and orchard), a good solution to critters (2 and 4 legged) Is a good farm dog or two. We grow lots of critter-tempting stuff, and have bees, and not directly next to the house. But with a good English Shepherd (they're bred to be all around homestead dogs... herd, hunt and protect everything from the people to livestock to gardens-anything you show you value will become something they believe they need to protect) we don't even lose sweet corn to deer or raccoons, and Dixie even works hard to protect our pastured meat chickens, which are sometimes a couple hundred yards away from the buildings. Even the local black bears stay away from the bee yard because of the dogs.

    The breed also seems to be "homebodies"... even when I had an intact male, and various neighbor dogs were in heat, he never left the farm perimeter. For that matter, Dixie is the only female dog ive EVER had who I don't have to confine, leash and worry about when she's in season! I've had to run down and search frantically for several others that hubby carelessly left off leash ("Gee, I thought she'd follow me to the barn" (a 140# Akita) , and "I only walked over to check the dry cows... i never thought she'd take off. (Red, our little Border Collie, who I unwisely allowed him to take to the back pasture because he needed her to move some cows, and he SWORE he wouldn't take his eyes off her!)

    Something to consider.

    Also, I'm planning to take Dixie to Virginia in early summer to breed her to an incredibly beautiful (and useful... he's a working homestead dog) male, to get what will likely be our only litter of pups from her.

    Summerthyme

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Central Iowa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rayku View Post
    Although I have enough curiosity for ten people and would like to see photos as well, I'd advise against posting any photos online. They tend to give away too much information of what is, or could become opsec concerns.
    Really? A whole bunch of us have already posted photos of our gardens here in the gardening forum.
    People are quick to confuse and despise confidence as arrogance but that is common amongst those who have never accomplished anything in their lives and who have always played it safe not willing to risk failure.

  16. #16
    Warrior, my place isn't a former farm or homestead - it's been naturally forested since the civil war, if not longer. Further out my road - nearer the highway there are signs of former homesteads.

    Packy - with google earth and other mapping going on - identifying buildings, locations of same and terrain can make it easy for someone to be "visible". Most of the time, I wouldn't worry about it. But there are a lot of what-if scenarios, that once this info is out on the web... all bets about being "secluded" are off. So... with a little forethought to that problem, and some creative framing/cropping of photos... it is possible to post SOME pictures. My camera is pre-GPS/day-time... but that's two-three step process to upload photos. I've not been able to post from phone or ipad in ages - and I used to teach digital graphics, for cryin out loud!

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by packyderms_wife View Post
    Really? A whole bunch of us have already posted photos of our gardens here in the gardening forum.


    he's correct about the new digital photo technology - leaves "fingerprints" of your location if someone is versed in the technology and wants to pinpoint you .... it's been a problem in the "personals" and "singles" websites - whack jobs tracking down women .....
    Illini Warrior

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    West Virginia
    Posts
    34,923
    Best of luck with it and like most of us the biggest problems you will encounter is insects and the local wildlife.
    We're here if posable to help solve peoblems the talk you threw things.

  19. #19
    We're the same zone I think, Publius. With the solar cycle tending toward a minimum, I'm thinking about buying fruit trees more marketed to upstate New York/eastern Canada. And same with varieties of seed. Do you have any thoughts on this?

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    West Virginia
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sacajawea View Post
    We're the same zone I think, Publius. With the solar cycle tending toward a minimum, I'm thinking about buying fruit trees more marketed to upstate New York/eastern Canada. And same with varieties of seed. Do you have any thoughts on this?

    Now sure where your at, but we have a state agriculture extension thats in between Jefferson County and Berkley County on the old Rt 45 and there is even a federal fruit tree farm close by.
    These people can help answer your questions and point you in the right direction.
    In the last 20 years or so many areas of the country have been working on and developing fruit trees that can with stand extreme cold and come back to life in the spring.


    There are two verities you may want to looking into and their old time early producers (Late Summer August) and thats the "Grimes Golden" and the "Lodi". Not that you want to fill your yard with them, but may want to have two to four of each.
    Last edited by Publius; 01-25-2018 at 12:02 PM.

  21. #21
    Well now, I believe I know where that's at. Thanks.

  22. #22
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    West Virginia
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    I added a little to that other post, and do remember to ask about name's and phone of suppliers of fruit trees in the reagion. Its getting close to the time of year you can start placing orders for trees.

  23. #23
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    NW MO
    Posts
    1,402
    Sacajawea, I'm glad to read you're thinking of the fruit trees, I was hoping you'd get those, and any nuts and berries, started sooner rather than later.

    I sure understand your question about trying to predict what zone you should choose your trees for, too. A few years ago I figured it best to hedge my bets by leaning towards
    selections that could handle warming, and now I'm starting to think we might end up with cooler weather, instead. I've decided to throw in a selection from each end of the continuum,
    and cross my fingers.

    Have fun!

  24. #24
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
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    Central Iowa
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    Quote Originally Posted by jward View Post
    A few years ago I figured it best to hedge my bets by leaning towards selections that could handle warming, and now I'm starting to think we might end up with cooler weather, instead. I've decided to throw in a selection from each end of the continuum,
    This is what we've done with our teeny tiny garden space. You can't predict if there will be a late freeze, a hot wet and hot dry summer or a cool wet summer or a hot and dry summer. Last year it was hot wet, hot dry, hot wet, and hot dry again, sigh.
    People are quick to confuse and despise confidence as arrogance but that is common amongst those who have never accomplished anything in their lives and who have always played it safe not willing to risk failure.

  25. #25
    Well, the accuweather website will let you look at the forecast months in advance - and according to them, my temps will only be slightly cooler than normal this spring. Of course, they can't get the next day's forecast right dependably.

    Any seeds I start/veggies will be limited to almost a "test garden" this year. I was so tied down last year with projects around here... I've barely left the farm, to say nothing of trying to have social life. And I'm still playing catch up on moving in tasks. So the fruit trees are a natural. Publius, Lodi's have been around awhile! They are good applesauce and pie apples. I peeled my share when I was a kid.

    I would really like it to not go from Feb temps right to 80 degrees like it did earlier this week. That's physically hard on me. Just drains my energy.

  26. #26
    I guess "slightly cooler" includes night time temps in the teens, and daytime highs that feel like mid-20s with the windchill. Hard to do anything except split wood in this.

  27. #27
    I just checked next month's forecast temps - about 10 degrees below normal, when it starts to catch up by the end of April. I bought some pretty herb plants last week and they're living inside right now. They're small enough in the pots to be OK for a bit.

    I checked prices on topsoil/compost by the truckload for the kitchen beds. It's expensive - but I don't have much choice for this location. I'm just hoping I don't need any (or much) in the main garden area. Won't know till all the work gets down out there. Last week's snow set everything back - and it's still hanging around this week.

  28. #28
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    NW MO
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    1,402
    Thanks for the update, Sacajawea. Perhaps I'm weird, but I love hearing others talk about the setting up/starting of their homesteads! I don't recall what size property your working with, but I like to spend some of those bitter wind days mapping out the property, it's features and uses, etc. Sort of the next best thing to being able to be out there and actually doing.
    Thoughts are things. Thus I try to be careful of the thoughts I think, & the company I keep.

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